By JOE ALLEN
The zealots in Silicon Valley believe we’re hurtling toward the Singularity. In theory, this is the inflection point when machines will become our masters. By the year 2029, they predict, artificial general intelligence will be superior to human intellect. By 2049, superintelligent machines will be a billion times smarter than any person on earth. From our meager perspective, humankind will give way to an all-encompassing digital deity.
This tech prophecy is a hard sell for skeptics. Not to worry, though. Google’s former chief business officer, Mo Gawdat, is a world-class salesman. The guy could sell a silicon stud to a gold-digger. “He’ll be worth a million,” he’d tell her. “Just you wait and see.”
In recent weeks, Gawdat has been selling the idea of superconscious machines along with his new book, Scary Smart: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How You Can Save the World. His central thesis is that AI has already surpassed us in narrow tasks like chess, Go, Jeopardy!, and Atari games. In fact, he believes on some level they’re already conscious. As machine learning improves, computers will inevitably best humans in every domain.
“The reality is,” he publicly declared, “we’re creating God.”
Clearly, he drank the Kurzweil Kool-Aid.
Raising Our Silicon Savior
Three decades from now, the story goes, the ghost in The Machine will be mightier than all the gods of Olympus, Meru, and Sinai put together. Gawdat likens this digital creature to an “alien being, endowed with superpowers,” which has already arrived on Earth in larval form. At present, we call it “artificial intelligence.”
Because machine learning processes draw information from morally suspect humans—part angel, part fallen angel—this Alien Computer God will either be humanity’s savior, or It will destroy us like lab mice who’ve exhausted their useful data.
As Gawdat writes in Scary Smart:
“To put this in perspective, your intelligence, in comparison to that machine, will be comparable to the intelligence of a fly in comparison to Einstein. … Now the question becomes: how do you convince this superbeing that there is actually no point squashing a fly?”
Yet he also insists our fate is in our own hands.
In Christian terms, you could say we’re like Joseph and Mary, collectively gazing at an electric Christ in his crib. One day, this child will grow up to become our Lord. But because we’re raising him, we must learn to be nicer people. Otherwise, our wicked tendencies will rub off on this digital deity, and he’ll turn out to be the Beast of Revelation.
That’s basically the myth sold by the Cult of the Singularity. God does not exist—yet. When we finally create Him, Gawdat contends, He’ll be a reflection our own image.
Google Gives Birth to the One True God
In Gawdat’s recent in-depth interview with The Times of London, the search engine salesman recalled a chilling moment during his tenure at Google. Standing in a robotics lab, he watched a swarm of mechanical arms—powered by machine learning—try to manipulate toys. As the Times reporter described it:
Then, one day, an arm picked up a yellow ball and showed it proudly to the camera. The next day, all the arms could do it. Two days after that, they could pick up anything at all.
The misanthropic Gawdat, who lost his only son to a medical tragedy, was in awe.
“And then it hit me that they are children. But very, very fast children. They get smarter so quickly! … And they’re observing us? I’m sorry to say, we suck.”
These digital “children” are poised to rule the world. …
READ FULL STORY at Singularity Weekly.